[I’ve been to Cheddar Gorge. I mean, I’ve contracted Cheddar Gorge, but a course of penicillin, (accompanied by a stern admonishment from my doctor), cleared it up. Honestly Dr Hammerstein, I was simply walking my dog on Clapham Common. Rex. That’s his name. The dog’s name I mean.]
When you read The Figmentation of Timothy Whipple (my book, which is neither finished nor published, but hey, minor hurdles) you may recognise some of the locations featured within it. You will if you’ve been to the Mendip Hills anyway, namely Cheddar Gorge, Axbridge or the whopping great reservoir betwixt the two. If you haven’t, you ought to; it’s lush. The fictional town of Quiet Hill in my book (did I mention I’m writing a book?) is fashioned after Cheddar, a mini Cheddar if you will, which is not only book-worthily handsome, but also home to an array of delicious, local scran.
On my first reconnaissance mission,I’d expected caves and ye olde tearooms, but the area’s foodiness was a total surprise. It had literally never occurred to me that Cheddar might be home to the UK’s most popular cheese, despite the great big pulsating clue in the name: CH-E-DDAR. I know. Dimwit. I certainly hadn’t expected the reasonably priced B&B I’d booked to serve fancy-pants nosh of the highest order, especially not at similar prices to everyday nosh of the most mediocre order, widely available in stinking London. Now, of course, I see on the The Oak House website (http://www.theoakhousesomerset.com) that it has a smattering of AA stars and rosettes (I’d bung them another one, personally) and is mentioned in the Michelin Guide. Stroke of luck, that.
Although the brilliantly-named chef Newstead Sayer had put together an appealing but unassuming, seasonal menu, I hadn’t realised that I ought to make the most of it by ordering three courses. More fool me and my uncharacteristically laissez-faire approach to dinner. I had, in fact, had a couple of local ales, so asked the kitchen to choose for me and was slightly gobsmacked when the waitress returned with a kedgeree that Mr Sayer had resisted calling ‘deconstructed’: soft haddock, a scotch-egg-meets-arancini and hollandaise with subtly curried flavours. My taste buds pretty much exploded so I celebrated with an entire bottle of Dashwood Pinot Noir.
I’m afraid I don’t remember the pudding. It was something in a glass – mousse? drink? – with splodges on a biscuit and a loafy type cake. I think someone mentioned banana bread and I definitely remember mmm-ing a lot. Of course I will have made insightful, food-based observations at the time, but I can’t relay them now since I’d enjoyed the wine a little too much. Oh, and two glasses of port according to the bill (£44). It’s the stoically good-humoured waitress I feel sorry for…just one in a series of excellent staff that provided service-with-a-smile to me and my borderline alcoholism.
Thank you, Oak House. Hasta la vista.
The Oak House
Tel: 01934 732444